While on a break from my routine, I took my Five Fingers to Cameron Park in Waco this morning. I have completed a couple of 50k runs there, and I still believe it is the best kept secret in Texas for mountain biking and trail running.
I love the park, and with the many new improvements, it's better than ever. The trails rise and fall to the river and you can run in stands of Cedars and Bamboo. It's rugged, wooded, with steep elevation changes. Things every tail runner loves.
The trails are well-marked, and if you need hill training or just want to get outdoors, it's the place to go. I covered some of the hardest and longest in the Park: Highlander, Powerline, and Powder Monkey. I took some green trails, too, but no black ones--that I know of. The trails have exposed rock face as well as packed dirt. Where water had drained and loosened the limestone rocks was the hardest on the feet.
I put in 2 hours on the trails.
Here's my take on the continuing argument for or against shoes. (Yes, I'm still deciding.) You definitely need some sort of covering on your feet on these trails! The loose rocks and exposed limestone require more than FF can give. By the end, the balls of my feet were pretty tender.
I give the nod to my Five Fingers cruising on flats and climbing uphill. I actually think ascents may be faster in FF due to posture--I tend to stand up straighter in FF than shoes--and lightness.
Shoes definitely have the advantage on the descents. Since foot placement is more important with FF and the loose rocks hurt the most in them, shoes allow you to make up time and bound down trails FF will not allow.
Shoes also have the advantage on distance. It will take some time before I can go beyond 2 hours on trails like these in my FF. I have completed the two 50k on those trails in trail shoes (Montrail, Hardrocks) with little or no damage except sore muscles. While fatigue was not an issue, my feet would not (at this time) make it the full race distance.
I'm still committed to running in my FF, but will need to supplement my foot covering when it comes to rugged trails like these.
Why did I do it? Two reasons: I love the challenge. "Mind over body" and trying what few others have tried still stokes me.
And, the Creator's call on my life includes sharing the Story of Restoration with God's Creation. I am closest to God when I am in the sanctuary of places like Cameron Park. I can't wait to run in the New Creation.